Are the Cleveland Indians Better Off Without Gavin Floyd in the Rotation?


Yo Bro/No Bro!: Will the Cleveland Indians Miss Truly Gavin Floyd?

Matt Bretz:  Yo, bro!  The Cleveland Indians’ rotation is better off without Gavin Floyd.

Andrew Schmid:  No, bro!  They needed Floyd and the depth he provided in the rotation.

MB:  I know a lot of people liked the Gavin Floyd signing, and while I admit it wasn’t a “bad” signing, I definitely was not a fan. I do believe in the old saying “you can never have too much starting pitching,” and Floyd did provide some depth to the rotation. However, I felt at the time that giving Floyd both guaranteed money and a guaranteed spot in the rotation were mistakes. Why? Because a younger, better pitcher was going to lose a rotation spot to Gavin Floyd, and that just didn’t sit right with me. Quite simply, I feel the Indians rotation is better with two of T.J. House, Danny Salazar, and Zach McAllister in the rotation, rather than just one of them and Floyd. I’m not happy that Floyd was hurt as I’m not in the business of being happy when a Tribe player is hurt, but I’m not exactly shedding any tears over his misfortune either.

AS:  Signing Gavin Floyd added depth and another high-upside arm to the Tribe’s rotation.  Of the Indians’ projected starting rotation, only Corey Kluber has logged more than 165 innings in a season, a feat that Floyd has achieved five times before.  Floyd’s signing not only provided a backup incase of an injury, but it also gave Terry Francona another potential pitcher to breakout next season.  With Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer looking like they will be good or great pitchers behind Kluber, having a fourth solid arm to count on will be critical to the Indians winning the division.  Before breaking his elbow, Floyd posted a solid 3.47 xFIP across 54 innings.  While Danny Salazar probably has bigger potential, this is about as good as one could expect T.J. House to pitch, and Zach McAllister has shown better stuff from the bullpen.  While the Indians do have other options, this signing gave the Tribe even more depth and potential in the starting five.

MB:  Floyd has at times shown to be a very good pitcher; however, the last time he was fully healthy was 2012. Sure we’ve seen the Indians have success with similar pitchers, especially Scott Kazmir in 2013. The difference there though was that Kazmir got a minor league deal and had to earn a spot in the rotation.  Floyd getting a major league deal and a guaranteed spot after missing so much time just never sat right with me.  You mentioned Salazar’s potential and I agree there. His upside is beyond that of Floyd’s at this point. I disagree on House and McAllister though. I really don’t think we’ve seen the best of House yet. Sure maybe he’ll regress a bit this year (60% groundball rate may go down some) but what he showed last year (3.70 FIP) was arguably better than anything that Floyd has shown since 2010.  Even McAllister is a better starting pitching option in my eyes. McAllister seems to get ignored for the rotation but he had back-to-back solid years in 2012 and 2013 in the Tribe rotation. His 2012 was arguably better than Floyd’s 2012 (again, last time Floyd was healthy).

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Yes, it was two years ago but since then McAllister over the past three seasons (2012-2014) McAllister has seen his FIP as a starting pitcher go from 4.24 to 4.03 to 3.80.  And of course, there’s also still Josh Tomlin, who despite some issues posted a 4.00 FIP (3.15 xFIP) in 93.1 innings as a starter last year.  Even before the Floyd signing Tomlin looked like he was, at best, the #7 starter in the Tribe organization, and yet he was better than Floyd in 2014!  Best case I feel you could maybe argue Floyd was the 6th best starter the Indians had heading into the spring, and yet he was guaranteed a spot in the rotation…

AS:  Sure, McAllister and Tomlin have played well in the past, but from 2009-2011 Floyd posted FIPs under 3.85, something that Tomlin had never done in a full season.  Yes, Tomlin did post a superior xFIP to Floyd, but Floyd also has better stuff.  Floyd, a former fourth overall pick, sees his fastball clock in around 93 miles per hour and has both a cutter and a curveball with the potential to be nice pitches, with his cutter usually around one run above average per 100 pitches, and his curveball peaking at around two runs per 100 pitches last season.  Tomlin, the 581st overall pick in 2006, sees his fastball come in almost three miles per hour slower and lacks another better than average pitch, with only his change-up and curveball, which he threw for a combined 20% of the time last year, being ranked as better than average.  Both of those pitches were worth under a run per 100 pitches.

Another big thing that Floyd’s signing did was to allow McAllister to pitch out of the bullpen, where we saw his velocity increase by just over three miles per hour.  Suddenly, the righty’s fastball poses as a threat to hitters, and McAllister could follow in Wade Davis‘ footsteps in transforming from mediocre starter to ace reliever.  While the Indians do boast some bullpen depth, having another bullpen weapon is a plus, as Tito has stated that Cody Allen will not be locked down in the ninth inning, rather, like Batman, he will be used when needed most.  If Cody Allen needs to enter in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and none out in a one-run ballgame, and he preserves the lead, then a souped up Zach McAllister in the ninth would be a fantastic option to have.

Yet another thing that the signing of Floyd did was bring a low stress environment for someone like T.J. House or Danny Salazar in which to pitch.  With four of the five rotation spots locked down, House and Salazar would battle for the final spot.  Instead of being asked to pitch at in a higher spot, the winner would only have to go out there and do his best.  He wouldn’t need to fret about giving up four or five runs because that is a perfectly acceptable amount for a number five starter to allow.  Finally, by forcing Salazar and House to compete with other pitchers, one of them could make a major breakthrough in Spring Training due to the new motivation to pitch well.  None of these things would have been possible without inking a guy to a guaranteed contract.

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MB:  Floyd did have a great run there for a while but he was 28 in 2011; he’s now 32. For comparison sake, Scott Kazmir was only 29 when the Indians brought him in a couple of years ago. 32 isn’t over the hill by any means but expecting a guy that’s struggled with injuries for parts of three seasons now to now only be healthy but rekindle what he had four years earlier is a lot to ask of any pitcher. Floyd had good stuff when he was young and healthy, and he even flashed some of that plush stuff last year (albeit in a small sample size).

As far as McAllister, I know I’m in the minority here, but I do not like him in the bullpen as much as most. Sure he looked good there last year, but it was only 13 innings.  Yes, he touched 98 but that’s not where anyone should be expecting him to sit if he was in the bullpen for 70 innings. Like with any starting pitcher his stuff was bound to play up in the bullpen but with (at least) six options ahead of him in the bullpen putting him there seems like a big waste to me.  Whereas in the rotation he can take that bullpen mentality and confidence he likely gained back out with him like Carrasco did when he went from the bullpen back to the rotation last year.  Carrasco was great in the bullpen too, but wasting a guy in a 6th/7th inning role when they can be a good starter is not the best way to maximize a player’s talent.  Sure, maybe McAllister goes back to the rotation and proves he simply can’t cut it. But consider this, if McAllister doesn’t get hurt last year, are we even having this discussion?  Are we forgetting how good McAllister looked before he started on 3-days rest and ended up on the DL?  He was arguably our 2nd best pitcher behind Kluber early on.

Floyd did take some pressure off the young starters but sometimes you can protect your young players too much. It would have been one thing if the Indians only had House and Salazar, as counting on both to produce early could have been a risk but with McAllister and Tomlin around it seemed like unnecessary overkill to me.  The Indians had already brought back Shaun Marcum as well, and while I realize he didn’t pitch at all in the bigs in 2014, he at least pitched a good amount in 2013. Was he really a bigger risk than Floyd? Did the Indians need both?

AS:  Yes, Shaun Marcum and Josh Tomlin do provide some nice depth pieces, but signing Floyd made them just that: depth.  Marcum can go be down in Columbus and be a good influence on the minor leaguers and be a security measure in case a bunch of starters go down.  Tomlin also became the same thing.  Now a 30-year-old, the Indians could just use him in a long relief setting, or they could just send him back down to Triple-A.

Another thing that Floyd provides to the big league roster is a veteran presence.  With the other starting pitchers all being very young and mostly inexperienced when it comes to service time, Floyd could be a nice player for others to converse.  Maybe Bauer is having a hard time dealing with pressure.  He could then go talk to Floyd, who has lots of experience and is a fellow former top prospect.  The Indians have guys like Nick Swisher for offensive players to talk with, but they don’t have a guy like him for starting pitching.[/caption]

MB:  The thing is, even before the Floyd signing guys like Shaun Marcum and Josh Tomlin were simply depth pieces. As the team stands now (post-Floyd injury) those two look to be the 7th and 8th starting pitching options behind House, McAllister, and Salazar. That’s really the big issue I had with the Floyd signing, the depth was already there with the Indians. Wasn’t about the money or incentives they gave, it was that he looked like a depth signing on a team that had plenty of depth.  I fully get what Shapiro said in a recent interview about how expensive starting pitching is, citing Brett Anderson‘s $10M deal with the Dodgers. One could easily argue that Floyd was really a “bargain” when compared to other free agent signings; however, it’s only a bargain if the player improves the talent on the team and in the rotation.

In conclusion, I just never felt that even a healthy Floyd was an upgrade talent-wise in the Indians rotation. That’s not a knock on Floyd, but rather a testament to how talented and deep the Indians rotation truly is. One could easily argue that even post-Floyd injury the Indians have one of the most talented and deep rotations in all of baseball.  So Yo Bro, I stand behind my conviction that the Cleveland Indians rotation is better off without Floyd in it.

AS:  The Gavin Floyd signing provided a nice depth piece for the Tribe. He helped to ensure that when pitchers go down, there will be a replacement. Sadly, he became said pitcher that went down with an injury. But unlike the typical depth acquisition, Floyd also brought the potential to be a better than average pitcher and be a very solid number three or four starter, all while mentoring and keeping the stress off young guys like House and Salazar for a relatively cheap sum of money. So No Bro, the Cleveland Indians needed Floyd’s depth and what he could bring to the table.